Friday, December 07, 2012

The Back of My Cab

The news has been making me feel very old. Not just old. But like an old seen-it-all-before black cab driver. This is what happens when you start heading towards fifty - Here's who I have had in the back of my cab.

God I hated working for Newsnight. The bitchiest, most unsupportive newsroom I have ever worked in - this from a woman who (when working for another organisation) was once backed against a wall by a boss holding a chair, who imprisoned me between its four legs all the better to bollock me. I could go on about Newsnight but I'd still be hammering my keyboard frothing about the license fee this time next week.

George Entwistle.
How old do you have to be before the former director general of the BBC is someone who was your successor in a different job? George took over from me at Westminster as a Newsnight producer. I remember someone saying "He's very BBC" and wondering "What the Hell does that mean?" I understand now though.

Jimmy Savile.
There is a moment in my first book Wife in the North where I lift the ponytail of a little cousin who has been sick from cancer and who is well again, and as I lift it and run it through my hands, I celebrate the fact this girl-child is so lovely and healthy again. Years ago, I covered some charity event - I think for the local paper I worked for then, but it might have been for ITN. The children in the centre of the room were sat at tables having tea, grown-ups lining the walls around them. Jimmy Savile was holding forth, Jimmy Savile was why we were there. He walked around the tables, around the kids, parents chuckling at his banter, and as he stopped behind one girl, he lifted her ponytail and ran it through his hands, talking all the while. I thought: "Yeah gods, the guy is a pervert." I said as much to my photographer (it might have been a cameraman) afterwards and he told me: "Everyone knows. That's been around for years."

Max Clifford.
I never really dealt with Max Clifford - maybe once, maybe twice. I feel it ought to have been more on the grounds I have been a journalist so long - in my defence, celebrity stuff wasn't my area. But I did still have him in the back of my cab. Well not "have" him. Not have him and get snapped and sell my story through the agencies of well - Max Clifford.

(Scene fades to black, and up again.)Occasionally you feel good. You wear the right thing, your hair falls as it should, the light hits you like it ought to. Doesn't happen all the time. Hardly ever happens. It may never happen to me again - but it did that day, that day it was all a fit. I'd had a hellish train journey but I'd finally arrived in London to talk about the possibility of a book deal. I was walking along the Strand, wearing black, a tight belted top and a fishtail skirt which swished - I could hear it. Black boots clung to my calves and a long riding-style coat, lined all in silk, framed me. I was running late but about to walk into a meeting I was looking forward to (shame I managed to tuck that swishy fishtail skirt into my knickers when I got there, but that's another story.) My skirt was not tucked into my knickers as I walked purposefully along the Strand, and I was smiling a little because the prospect of a book deal can do that to you. Ahead of me, Max Clifford walked out of a building to climb into a car. He glanced my way. I met his eye. He was Max Clifford. I knew it and he knew that I knew it. I was all dressed in black, black, black with lips the colour of crushed raspberries. At that moment, Max Clifford thought he might see me again. Thought I had a story to tell, that I might knock on his door and say breathily "Mr Clifford, there's this man. He told me he was going to leave his wife or I'd have never...I've got pictures." It is one of my proudest moments.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Devouring Books

I had to go up to Edinburgh yesterday for an interview which meant a train journey. I like trains, the problem though is that I regularly end up sitting with an insane person. Insane people travel by train a lot.

This particular chap got on the station after me which meant I had to stand up and let him in. I should have known he was an oddity from the look he gave me - a look which said "You are sitting next to me. I don't like anyone sitting next to me. It means my imaginary friend will have to stand, and that makes him ANGRY." Anyway he reluctantly sat down, and I sat back down and picked up my newspaper to read more about something that wasn't Kate's pregnancy and the chap got out a book. All well and good. He was a reader which is a good thing. And it would have been had he grasped what is supposed to happen when you read - that is to say, you lift the book into your line of vision, hold it there, and read the text from left to right, thereby absorbing the meaning of the words. For him however, reading was a multi-sensory experience. He was indeed holding the book in his line of vision (and bearing in mind I was reading my newspaper here) the problem was he periodically lifted it to his mouth and breathed into it deeply - deeply like empty your lungs deeply. This went on for a while (time tends to stop when you read about George Osborne's taxation plans) and realisation dawned only slowly that I was sat next to a nutter.

While still facing frontwards, I slid my eyes to the left to watch what was going on next to me - was is a breath? If so, was it inwards or outwards? Or was it a kiss? And if it was a kiss - was it with or without tongues? Because if he had his tongue out, I was going to have to move. (If it was without tongues, I figured I could stay put.) I couldn't see that much without turning my head which I did ever so slightly - I was pretty sure it wasn't a kiss. Sensing my interest he moved slightly to block my line of vision, and quickly I switched my eyes back to my paper. Out of a darkening sky, sleet hit the train, slapping against the windows and giving me the excuse to casually glance his way. The book's pages appeared loose like it was poorly bound, its font was tiny and every now and then it had an ink-drawn diagram - I saw two: an ornate cross and something like the cross-section of a conker. Every now and then he sighed as if life was too much or the book was telling him something he didn't want to hear. I decided it had to be something vaguely spiritual, or cultish, although in no religion I know of, do you have to breathe on the text. By the time we pulled into Edinburgh Waverley, I was almost wall-eyed from trying to see exactly what it was he was reading. I failed. As I walked along the platform, I wondered - was he trying to suck the meaning through his mouth, but then he was breathing outwards and not inwards. Was he trying to animate the text with his breath of life? If I hadn't been there would he have ripped out the pages, salted and eaten them? And if he had offered, it would only have been polite to eat one too.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Take 1lb of Cranberries

The only advent calendars my kids are interested in have chocolate inside. Penguin's advent calendar has no chocolate. It does have me though behind Day 4 with my five top tips for good deeds at Xmas. It is the moral equivalent of a recipe for cranberry sauce. I am issuing a health warning...all this stuff about good deeds, I am beginning to get a little sweaty round the collar. There is a risk when you write a book about good deeds, people will think you are good. There is a risk when you come out with five top tips for good deeds at Christmas, people will think that you think you are an extraordinarily nice person. Here is the health warning: I am not a nice person. I am an alright person trying to be better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lend me a tenner mate.

Social media is a slot machine. You put up a post, a blog, a tweet, pull down the handle and watch dry-mouthed hoping your readers go up as the comments roll around and around - till it all grinds to a halt on three lemons and a shower of interest and LOLs. You can stand there in the dark for hours playing it - man against machine. The souls of your shoes tacky against the nylon carpet. An almost empty pint glass in your hand, the dregs warm and flat. Hoping for a jackpot. An addict hoping for a hit. And the etiquette of it all is tough. Some people you like but there is never the time to get to know them properly. Others want stuff from you - a review, a signed book, or just to be your friend. What for instance is the done thing when someone who owes you money wants to be your friend on Facebook? Not that he owes me much. I can't even remember whether it was five or ten or twenty. I think it was ten and it was years ago. And it is not the money. It is just I can remember feeling stung as happening upon me in a cafe, this chap greeted me warmly, chatted loudly and effusively of how great it was to see me as he queued for coffee and a pastry, and then called to me as I sat at my table asking me to pay for his breakfast as he didn't "have the time" to pay himself. And the hungry, snaking queue of patrons heard him, watched me, as I was had. I remember thinking "Are you kidding me? You're standing there. At the till. Ofcourse you have the time." And he must have had the money because he was in a bakery buying coffee and a pastry - had joined the queue to buy them. And I'd liked this chap. And I'd felt let down and used up. But I paid for his coffee and his pastry and he left the cafe, calling how he would get the money back, and raised a hand in warm salute and I thought "I bet you don't. I bet you won't." Ofcourse perhaps that's why he wants to be my Facebook friend.

Card Sharp

So Penguin asked me for five top tips for good deeds at Christmas. Despite having done my year of good deeds, I am slightly leery setting myself up as any moral authority on what is and is not a good deed (particularly bearing in mind I am a journalist and as Lord Leveson will point out tomorrow journalists have no kind of moral authority at all.) Still bearing in mind I am a firm believer in a free press, my first top tip for doing good at Christmas is:

"Buy charity cards direct from a charity. Every year you say you will, then your eye gets caught on that snowy, sparkly woodland in the department store. Put your hands up and step away from the robin."

And since I am writing about good deeds for Christmas I am going to have to in all conscience give them a go and do them myself.(Makes hand into gunshape and holds finger-barrel to own head.) Yesterday I duly went online and ordered 100 charity Christmas cards and today 60 of them arrived.

Anyone who knows me stand by your beds (doubtless already covered in your festive quilt and festooned with sparkling pointsettia lights.) The likelihood is you will soon be in receipt of a Giotto nativity from Arthritis Research UK; glittery snowdrops from Cancer Research; a leafless winter's tree (hopefully not an ash) from Save the Children; or this one called "Christmas Post" from Action for Children.

Whatsmore I am, in one fell swoop, helping "reduce the pain and disability for the one in six people including children, in the UK who are living with this debilitating condition (of arthritis)", helping "save children's lives...fight for their rights...fulfil their potential" and beating cancer. And I haven't even written the damn cards yet. Yeah. How about that?

My husband looked a little confused at the delivery of the Christmas cards. This is because he is normally the one who writes them. In fact normally I never send a Christmas card. Not one. I haven't for years. Maybe one in a blue moon to an aged aunty but that is it. (Grits teeth and reaches for address book).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hot off the Press

Went down to Suffolk to Clay's factory to see the book being printed, and took my eldest along on the grounds that if this one crashes and burns I might never get another book published.

I also thought there has to be a good chance by the time he is my age, books will all be on kindles and suchlike. Even I was surprised as we witnessed the process though, because when you think of a book, you think of the intellectual and emotional response that book elicits in terms of reading, whilst in terms of writing you think of the inspiration and creativity and the hard work involved. Books though are also a thing to be manufactured with consideration given to the grain of the paper, and glue and guillotines and conveyor belts. Then of course they have to be sold. Don't start me on the selling of books because I'll end up mewing in a corner. Who knows whether a book will sell? Can you make a wish? Clay's published all the Harry Potter books, so maybe it is a good place for magic to happen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Is that a Handbag Beneath Your Burka or Are You Just Pleased to See Me?

I am not big on conferences. I have had to cover a fair few - usually political, occasionally educational. I associate them with late nights, thick heads, deadlines and trying to look like I know what's going on when I haven't a clue. I spoke at a Britmums blog meet-up a couple of years ago and this weekend I went along to the Mumsnet Blogfest. I admit I was slightly wary. It is one thing covering a conference when you are being paid to be there as a hack, it is fair enough if you are speaking or chairing an event which I have also done, but going along as a punter implies you are a believer or an enthusiast, and that is a hard admission to make if you are a natural sceptic like me.

Anyway on the basis that I am a mum, I am a blogger, I have a net and I am all for festing, I went. Here are my top ten things I took away from the conference. (There are 12 that is because I am adding value to my blog bulging as it is with unique content.)

1. I need to buy a wrap-dress in jersey with a nice geometric print immediately. Similarly, I need an expensive leather handbag.

2. Don't presume if you go to a conference on your own that you will spend the day friendless. I worried that it might be cliquey, that I would be left standing by myself talking to an aspidistra. I was entirely wrong (and I hope the lovely girl in tears I met in the Ladies at the start of the day recovered herself.)

3. "Why Miriam Gonzales Durante?" I asked myself looking at the agenda which had her down as the opening keynote speaker. "Because she's absolutely great" I answered once I'd heard her. Miriam is a partner in a law firm specialising in EU Trade and EU Government affairs.(She also happens to be married to the deputy prime minister.) She is seriously clever, warm and very glamorous. (The woman next to me described her as "like Jackie Kennedy" when she first appeared with her shiny, shiny dark hair and chic white top. Tell me I wasn't the only one in the audience thinking "Miriam, baby - Nick Clegg? Nick. Clegg. Why?"

4. Bloggers over-think the troll thing. Occasionally horrible people stumble into your world - real or virtual. Courtesy of psychologist Professor Tanya Byron, I realised that they are probably damaged, and that what they say is their problem and not yours.

5. Bloggers who are writing for themselves rather than on behalf of a company should forget about including keywords in titles, tags or disappearing down any such SEO (search engine optimisation)rabbit-holes. Where is the fun in angsting about rankings when you could be writing?

6. Similarly social media. Apparently we all need to get on google+. Which I am on. It is just I have forgotten what to do with it. I know it has circles like Dante's inferno and you have to send different things to each circle. As far as I can see this leads to a permanent sense of anxiety that you are sending the wrong thing to the wrong people.

7. Do not get there late if you want a cupcake.

8. The dos and don'ts of blogging about children is a coming issue. Blogging is growing up. As are the children some bloggers write about. Best question of the day - what do you do if your 16-year-old tells you he doesn't want you to write about him anymore?

9. There are some women out there who want to wear Caitlin Moran's skin. Personally I'm settling for throwing away my hairbrush and giving myself one of those fetching blond Mallon streaks that make you look like you are licked awake every morning by a golden retriever.

10. Don't invite Mail on Sunday columnist Liz Jones and expect her to send a floral notelet saying "thank you" and "how nice it was to meet you" - it ain't gonna happen. Don't feel hurt or bitch about her attitude when she accuses mumsnet bloggers of being patsies whose view of the world is so restricted they might as well be wearing burkas. Laugh. In a burka, noone can see you laughing.

11. I am all for writing. I have written three books Wife in the North, the-novel-that-lives-in-a-drawer-that-is-pants, and the one due out in January called A Year of Doing Good. I want to write more books. I also want to be happy. I'd like to think these things were not mutually exclusive.

12. If you paint your nails with a wacky chocolatey-plummy varnish courtesy of nails inc. that came in the goody bag, apparently it is flammable and your fingers catch fire as you type.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trust me

So who do you trust as a mother these days? Is Jimmy Savile proof you trust noone? The desire to protect your child is visceral, primeval and urgent. From the moment they are concieved you do your level best to protect them. When they are born, you feel you would kill for them. As they grow, you tell them to wash their hands to keep them from germs and infections. You teach them how to cross the roads to keep them from road accidents. You are distraught when a playground bully pushes them or teases them or calls them names. We protect them even from themselves when they sit too long infront of the XBox or the television.

But what happens when we cannot see them, when we aren't there to keep them from harm. When they go to school. When they take up sport. When they want to sing in a choir, join the scouts, overnight at a friend's house. How then do we protect them from the violators and the monsters - from the worst there is in the world?

How suspicious do we have to be? How vigilant? Are we surrounded by those from the dark side? Surely not - they are not the norm, they are the ugly and dangerous exception. Perverts need access to children. We know they go where children are. When we aren't there to stand by them with a broadsword and shield, our children's best defence is surely their knowledge. We don't diminish their innocence by packing up knowledge and tucking it neatly into their lunchbox. Information is their protection. Tell them there are bad men, there is inappropriate language and behaviour, that noone touches them, that noone should make them uncomfortable, that there are no secrets between a mother and a child.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No More Heroes Anymore

That loud splintering crack is the shattering of illusions in case you were wondering, and that tinkling pit-a-pat? That's the broken bits falling through the cold autumnal air like so many leaves to lie upon the damp ground. Why did we need these heroes - Jimmy Saville and Lance Armstrong? Why did we need to build them up and gawp and wonder at them? Why did we need to believe so hard? Did they tell their own story or did we tell it for them? The amiable, kindly eccentric who raised millions for charity. A knight of the realm but a knight humble enough to act as a hospital porter. And the cyclist winning against all odds again and again, beating his competition, beating cancer, beating down suspicion - a legend of his sport. Armstrong outrages not only so much because of his cycling wins, but because he faced down death and we loved him for that bravery, that derring-do, that gingerbread-man attitude of "you can't catch me". We are responsible for our own heartbreak are we not, by building them into men they could never be because no-one could be that selfless, that noble, that perfect. And when they are revealed - Savile the monster who boasted even in death that it was good while it lasted, and Armstrong labelled a "serial" drug cheat - is it all the worse because they expose us in turn as naive, as fools of our own making.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Travels with my Aunt

What is it about sex? Yesterday wasn't a day when I was going to get sex right. Ever have days like that? However hard you try - you just end up getting the sex thing wrong?

So I linked up with Penguin's digital guru Sarah-Elizabeth to talk through social media stuff, and before we started work I suggested we grab a sandwich. Sarah works in publishing which obliges her to wear black and be in her twenties with wavy dark hair and long legs. I have only met her briefly once before in a meeting so we chat a while. It turns out she hasn't lived in London all that long and has come down from a previous job in Glasgow. She says she is still going up to Glasgow at weekends, and it is about then I turn into her hopeless aged auntie. I hear myself asking her if she is going back to Glasgow to see a boyfriend and she looks at me a little strangely but says no it is just much of her life is still there. Since she is from the North-East I ask her where she went to school and if she went to university, and I just about stop myself asking her if she is eating properly and has she made any nice friends. What can I say? I am 48 and she is young enough to be my daughter. Anyway we finish eating lunch and I am pretty sure Sarah is relieved when we move back into the office to start work. She whizzes between pages and iconic brushes and html until our work is done and I'm suitably grateful. Later, I check out the About Me page on her blog which start with the statement she is a lesbian - moreover a lesbian who "tries to put the world to rights when it comes to LGBT issues". So that is a big old Oops from Aunty right there. I read it and I bang my head on the desk three times straight after.

And my day carried straight on. I climb on the train back North and haul out the iPad for a couple of hours of TV.
Since i missed the Danish thriller The Bridge when it was shown, I downloaded it for just such an eventuality as a long train journey without the children. I had only watched one episode about a month ago. Admittedly there had been a grim moment when a body turned out to be a top half of one woman and the bottom half of the other which must have made getting dressed that morning really hard, but all in all it had been OK.Twenty minutes in last night, a lanky moustachioed man goes into a bathroom and takes a tub of moisturiser from a shelf. The problem being he was naked. Actually that wasn't the problem. The problem was the fully-clothed guy sitting next to me on the train. I try and pause it but it won't pause. I scrabble at the iPad like a dog at the back door. The man next to me thinks I watch porn. I turn it off and sit looking at the blank screen. The chap next to me has his own laptop open and starts a game of what I am guessing is Civilisation. He is not happy when he has to stop building his empire to let the pervert out to the buffet. I don't really want the buffet. I want to fast-forward the scene so I can keep watching the episode. I decide the best place to do this is the loo. So I take the ipad into the loo. Too late I realise that this probably looks worse. This probably looks as if I have taken the ipad into the privacy of the loo to rerun my favorite porno bits and reach my destination just that little bit earlier than scheduled. I return to my seat and a further nine minutes into the episode the detective glances down a corridor to see a fat naked man in an armchair. I turn off the iPad again. The guy playing Civilisation either moves seat or gets off the train, and I watch for a little while longer till 40 minutes in when the female detective slides her hand down her pants and smiles. I give up and get my book out.

"Give us a twirl Anthea."

I am doing a twirl here. See I have revamped my blog (when I say "I" what I mean is an incredibly talented digital genius-person at Penguin called Sarah-Elizabeth Daley did things with code and photoshop that made my eyes water and I sat next to her and made insightful comments like "I still want it to be pink.") Likey? It is very exciting because I have been thinking about revamping the design since I came back to Blogland but I had this vision of accidentally pressing "delete" and everything disappearing.Not having proper computer support is one of the worse things about working on your own from home - I miss those nice men who'd say "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Sarah made me brave though. She copied out numbers on a piece of paper and assured me with these magic numbers she could put it all back if I didn't like the new stuff. Apparently my blog was "very 2000". I looked at her blankly when she said this. I suspect this was her equivalent of me referencing the Victorian era. When you are as old as me however, 2,000 seems like yesterday. Anyway I took a deep breath and with Sarah's encouragement let go of the side and have doggie-paddled out into 2012.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Well I have donned a frilly apron and French maid's outfit (as a Labour MP once suggested I should) and done some housekeeping on the blog and I am left feeling dirty and old. Dirty because of the dust and cobwebs everywhere, and old because I went through my blogroll and two-thirds of my friends had given up blogging. So I have been ruthless and pressed delete but I miss them. Do people even have blogrolls anymore? With all this "following" and RSS feeds, there doesn't seem much point. Anyway I like a nice blogroll - it reminds me of Arctic roll and sausage roll and rolls in the hay, so I am keeping it. If I have deleted you prematurely, feel free to come back to me. I will accept most excuses - the dog ate my blog being my personal favorite.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I held my daughter last night a little too tight; last night too, when she pleaded to keep the light on and read her book I said "OK". Not "It's late," or "It's time to sleep." When the book was done and she knew the ending was happy and forever after, I lay awhile alongside her warmth, watching her perfect face, admiring the gap where teeth have been, and listened to her chat and giggle, when by rights I should have said "Shh" and "Hush a while" and "I've things to do. Good night." And later, as she slept, I pushed open the bedroom door to check on her, and check again, check that she was sleeping underneath her goose-down comforter all covered over with polka dots and fairy princesses, guarded by a panda and a white-socked kitten.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Log off

We are an apologetic nation at the moment aren't we. Nick Clegg, the BBC and its security correspondent, and ofcourse, my personal favorite, Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell. Today the Telegraph published the full police log of Mitchell's altercation with Her Majesty's finest, and it is there in black and white - "plebs" - amid a fair smattering of "f***ing" and the advice "Best you learn your f***ing don’t run this f***ing government..." along with the killer "You’re f***ing plebs." If the log is an accurate report of events, the I-was-having-a-bad-day apology is worthless, his line that I-did-not-use-the-words-attributed-to-me-honest-f***ing-injun-I-didn't is unsustainable.

Of all the words a police officer could haul down from the sky, the word "plebs" is both loaded and political. I am willing to bet the officers concerned have been called any number of things by ne'er-do wells in the past. Surely if they were going to make something up, it would be more anglo-saxon than pleb? Or maybe not. Andrew Mitchell maintains he did not say it. Logic then dictates: either the police have it wrong or he does. Is he deliberately lying? Is he misremembering courtesy of losing his rag and adrenalin has wiped the gory details with a wet cloth? Or is he telling the truth? Perhaps he didn't misspeak - perhaps the police misheard. I am trying to imagine what he might actually have said to the police. Perhaps: "You're f***ing Debs" - whoever Debs might be, or "You're f***ing sheds - unlike me who is a pillar of the establishment. (Did I mention I'm the Chief Whip by the way?)" or maybe even "I'll have your f***ing heads." Now that last one, that one is a possibility.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to Write a Bestselling Children's Book - probably.

When my two boys read a book these days, I quite often read the first one if it is part of a series. It got me thinking about how to write a children's book, so I broke apart a few. As anyone with any sense who has tried to write anything longer than a shopping list knows - there is no formula for writing a great book. No way to replicate on the page sheer bleeding genius, inspiration, creativity and craft. Having said that .... I offer this back-of-an-envelope deconstruction as an aide to anyone out there thinking of writing children's books. It comes with a skull and crossbones warning. Yes I have written a book - infact I have written three now (one is in print, one is in a drawer and the third I'll tell you about some other time). But I have never, repeat never written a children's book therefore I do not know what I am talking about. Still, that doesn't usually stop me so for anyone with an interest in writing for children, here is a deconstruction of six great books/series. These are merely observations. This is not a recipe. Do not knock on my door and shout loudly at me if you follow it and your cake fails to rise.
I looked at the following books/series.(Apologies in advance to the brilliant authors involved - no disrespect is intended.)

  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling (because I don't think you are allowed to write about children's books without writing about Harry Potter)
  • Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
  • Alex Ryder by Anthony Horowitz
  • Laura Marlin by Lauren St John 
  • His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  • The Bible, more specifically the New Testament(bear with me on this.)

They have these features in common:
1. a central character who is an orphan, apparent orphan, or missing at least one parent
2 a natural mother, or if orphaned, they have a maternal-type figure in their lives (eg Mrs Weasley in the Potter books).
3. a mentor (eg Chiron in Percy Jackson)
4 an alternative parenting figure who sometimes doubles up as a mentor (Laura's uncle, Joseph, Lee Scoresby)
5. best friends (eg the Apostles in the Bible)
6. special powers eg magic, spying, detective, miracles, cleverness
7. a training period (courtesy of the secret service, in school/half-blood camp, the Wilderness,)
8. a Saviour role (saving the world, saving other children, saving mankind)
9. a battle between good and evil (vs. Kronos and monsters, Scorpia, bad guys, Satan)
10. hero is percieved not to play by the rules - for which trait they are punished - (expelled from school, ostracised, crucified)
11. the hero is percieved to be in the wrong
12. the hero acquires equipment/weapons (wand, sword, techhy equipment, a golden compass)
13. half-and half mix somewhere (half-spy/half-boy, son of God and Man, good father - evil mother, child/daemon)
14. at least one parent has unusual powers (eg magic, father(figures)are gods/wizards/spies/detectives)
15. mystery surrounds at least one parent(there is also revelation) (eg how did parents die, exactly who is the father/mother figure)
16. very powerful villain (Mrs Coulter, the Devil, Voldemort, head of Scorpia)
17. adventures feature a world within a world (which ordinary people have no firsthand knowledge of)(eg a world of shadows, an alternative universe, Heaven/Hell, wizarding, gods/demi-gods)
18. in truth/in discovery there is goodness
19. the hero is on a quest (for a philospopher's stone, salvation for humankind, to find the children taken by gobblers)
20. the hero is prepared to sacrifice their own life
Interesting how the New Testament fits the template, or perhaps the New Testament is the template and it has seeped into our culture to shape the minds of our children? Now there's a thought. Anyway there you go. Be sure and let me know if it helps you write a book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Two policewomen are murdered: are we more shocked, more horrified, than we would be if two policemen are murdered? It is always shocking when a police officer loses his (or her) life while defending us from criminals, sociopaths and no-marks. You feel humbled and grateful that someone has the courage and the convictions to stand firm against the violent and the drunk, against those who believe normal rules do not apply to them, those who refuse to sign the social contract. You are appalled when they pay the ultimate price for being one of the good guys in Gotham.

I don't hold that a man's life is worth more than a woman's, or vice versa. And yet, when a policewoman dies - there is a particular horror to it. Why is that? Are we still surprised that women are serving police-officers out on our mean streets - moreover on duty together - not with a pleasant, beefy bloke to help out if things get too rough? Does part of us still think of women as frail and fragrant creatures to be protected, rather than acting as our protectors? Do the two officers who died yesterday show how far women have come and are they the price we pay as a society for the word "equality" we bandy about so readily.

In knowing something of the women, we know something of the grief of their family and friends and their fellow serving officers. Greater Manchester constable Fiona Bone was 32 and planning her wedding. Doubtless she had flicked through far too many glossy bridal magazines and talked weddings with anyone who'd listen. Fellow officers apparently loved being partnered with her because she was calm, collected and professional, because she could defuse situations with her "calm, gentle way." Twenty-three year old constable Nicola Hughes was yesterday described by Sir Peter Fahy, her chief constable, as "a chatterbox" who was always smiling, a good listener and someone who couldn't do enough for people. Perhaps we feel their loss because we can understand who they were, because we have been who they were - on the threshold of everything wonderful, young, excited, and in Fiona's case - in love. Gentle, caring, smiling, beautiful - with these words Fiona and Nicola are made 3D women out from behind the flat and grainy photographs in our newspapers and on our TV screens.

Too often there are missing daughters and dead wives, battered bodies of women turn up in shallow graves and locked suitcases and back alleys - everyday victims of violent, predatory men. Tragically, PC Bone and PC Hughes are victims too, unarmed victims of a cold-blooded killer. The world is out of kilter when a police officer becomes a victim, more so when young women have their lives so brutally wrenched away. But I don't want to remember them as victims.I chose to remember them as professionals dying in the line of duty. I chose to remember them as women.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seriously. Is that the time?

Cor blimey.Where does life go? This is an official announcement I am coming back to blogging (if blogging will have me). Tomorrow my kids run in the mini and junior Great North Run, so I thought I would post my diary entry for this time last year ... Saturday 17th September 2011 Watching them run inspires me. Not just my kids - all of them: those grinning, tiny, pink-winged fairies running alongside a huffing, puffing Daddy; cowgirls in glittering stetsons; three-legged teenage racers their arms wrapped around one another, a paper explanation pinned to one girl’s teeshirt “I’m doing this for my aunty”. Can that aunty see her do this? Is she proud? And if she can’t, I’ll be proud on her behalf. Proud too of those kids in wheelchairs pushed up steep banks by gritty mums and dads – faces ablaze with sweat and loyalty: a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy surrounded by his family urging him on, willing him on, as he leaned into his walking frame, frail legs twisted under him, moving on and on to the finish line. The generosity, the energy, the purity of the young. Their willingness to own up to their love; their readiness to struggle, to climb the hills and make it to the end for us. This week my children – all those children – they did enough.